Have you ever heard this quote?
“A smart woman
learns from her own mistakes.
A wise woman
learns from the mistakes of others.”
I made a major mistake marrying the man I did. All of the details of why my marriage was a sinful undertaking are far too many for a blog post. That’s why I wrote the full story in Locusts Ate My Orgasms.
Still, there are some basic principles that I can share with you right now so you don’t fall into the same trap that I did.
Because God is gracious, I have learned many lessons from my failed marriage. But you don’t have to learn the same lessons the hard way by going through what I went through. You can learn from my mistakes instead.
Are you ready to become a wise woman who learns from the mistakes of others?
Here’s my list:
1. Don’t make the mistake of believing that abuse will turn into love
The man I used to be married to abused me—sexually, emotionally, spiritually, financially, psychologically, and physically. The abuse began before our first date, but it took over 11 years of marriage before I would admit that to myself.
Don’t let it take you that long.
Long before you marry a man, you have the opportunity to examine your relationship with him and choose to end it, if need be.
So if your gut whispers to your brain that the way a man treats you before you are married to him is harsh, manipulative, intimidating, or scary—LISTEN! Don’t quiet the voice of doubt. Heed it.
That leads me to my next point.
2. Don’t make the mistake of NOT seeing what is actually there
And don’t just use your eyes. Use all of your senses.
If you hear
- him refer to other women in sexual terms, listen to him. He’s telling you how he views you, too. If you hear him make racist comments when no one of that race is around, learn from him. He’s teaching you that he has one way of acting for the public and another way of behaving when he thinks no one is looking. You don’t want to be caught behind a closed door with a man like that.
If you see
- him staring too long at the bodies of other women, watch where his eyes go and how long they linger there. He’s showing you that he doesn’t see those women as people but as bodies for his own pleasure.
If you sniff
- out contradictions that he won’t address directly, watch out! Sure, he tells you that church is important to him—and he does show up every Sunday—but he wants the two of you to party so late on Saturday night that he can barely keep his eyes open during the sermon on Sunday morning. He’s performing to keep up appearances, not seeking the Lord.
If a bitter taste
- begins to form in your mouth each time he lets you down and makes an excuse for it, he’s clearly communicating that not only is he undependable, but also puts himself before you over and over and over again.
If you feel
- scared, anxious, guilty, sick to your stomach, wracked with headaches, or are having trouble sleeping, check to see if it’s because you are upset about something he said or the way he said it—what he did or what he asked you to do. If so, your body is letting you know that this man is making you sick.
Take a good look at what’s right in front of your eyes
- Don’t sugar coat it.
- Don’t lie to yourself about it.
- Don’t dress it up for your friends.
- Don’t make excuses for a man’s choices.
Look at what you actually see, and see what’s right in front of you.
3. Don’t make the mistake of trying to fix him
A man with serious relationship problems (with family, with coworkers) won’t heal them because he’s in relationship with you. In fact, if his relationships with people he’s known longer than he’s known you are that much of a problem for him, it’s a signal that he is showing you an untrue version of himself that won’t last very long.
A man who is seriously spiritually sick is not going to gain closeness with God by getting closer to you. Instead you’ll sink into sin with him.
“The wicked will not rule the land of the godly, for then the godly might be tempted to do wrong.” (Psalm 125:3, New Living Translation)
A man who has serious emotional problems won’t recover from those because you “loved” him into getting help. He’ll have to want healing for himself and work hard to achieve it.
You are a perfect example of that. Aren’t you doing your own recovery work even as you’re reading this blog post? Doing the work yourself is the only way you’ll get better.
The same is true for him
- Don’t try to be his therapist.
- Don’t try to be his savior.
- Don’t try to fix him at all.
Perhaps you are still thinking there is something about the relationship that you can fix. Then be sure to read points 4 and 5.
4. Don’t make the mistake of confusing major problems with minor ones
Minor issues are fixable. Genuine misunderstandings. The discovery of quirks. Acceptance of cultural differences.
But major problems may not be worth the effort of trying.
Just because you have enjoyed some conversations with a man, have done some fun things with him, have appreciated his good looks and great sense of humor, doesn’t mean you have to pursue a romantic relationship with him.
Think deeply and be sure
If more than the minor issues stated above start looming, it’s not your responsibility to make sure that they get worked out. You are under no obligation to continue spending time with a man once true relational difficulties arise.
Those very relational difficulties are the “sights” you’re supposed to be “seeing” from point number 2.
You will be taking such good care of yourself if you stop the relationship before his major issues leave scars (physical, spiritual, emotional, or mental) that you would have to work to heal from later.
5. Don’t make the mistake of doing all the work of needed changes all by yourself
Even if, after reading everything I’ve written here so far, you are positively sure that the problem is worth fixing and you are absolutely positive that the problem can be fixed, then you have to be extra, especially, doubly, and double-doubly careful that BOTH of you are working toward a mutually beneficial solution to the problem.
Otherwise, you’ll be creating more trouble for yourself than the original problem you began to try to fix.
Check to see if you actually work together toward the same relational goals
Before I admitted to myself (and soon after that, a counselor) that I was being abused, I worked really, really hard to make things better in my marriage.
I tried to be who he wanted me to be. I tried to do what he wanted me to do.
I hid the ways he hurt me. I lied for him to others. I made excuses about him in my own mind.
I prayed. I meditated. I read books. I attended conferences. I consulted with professionals.
I did A LOT of hard work.
Take a look at what I just wrote. What word do you see at the beginning of all those sentences?
Now, think. Do you see anybody missing in all of this effort to save a marriage between two people?
Eventually, I sought the help of our church leaders, which I realized later was a huge embarrassment for the man I was married to. Suddenly, because people were watching—people he wanted to impress—he began to do some of the work that I was doing. But it was only for show.
We not only had marital problems (what abusive marriage doesn’t??!!), we also lacked a unified commitment to persevere together to really reconcile our marriage.
Do not try to work with a man who does not work with you. There has to be mutuality. If there isn’t, you’ll suffer.
And there’s no need for you to suffer from these mistakes
I have, but you don’t have to. In truth, I believe I have so you don’t have to.
Take the example that God is placing right in front of you—me. Look, listen, and learn not to commit these errors in your own life.
Be the wise woman I know that you are and that you see yourself becoming.